Lenny Breau, Live--Ottawa (Le Hibou)

It was a difficult time, for me. So the memory is fresh. It was winter.

It was the dead dull of winter. Early in the new year, in the
hard exhale, the pause, the razor lull. There is no solitary hush
like that snowfall,
like that city, like that temperature (it's possible you cannot know), that time
of year. I took a bus

because the roads were

no, becuase I had no money and no car, but also because the roads
were deep, impossible,
empty (you cannot, cannot know). The bus got stuck,
so I walked the rest of the way. There were no cars. There were no people.
I guess that sounds trivial and I won't belabour the point, but
it was one of those times,
those nights, those moments
(in the bitter wind), in the desiccated, abrasive, solitary sting (I
had several, then) when every step meant breathing razors, exhaling
ectoplasm, looping through the script and
the thought did cross your mind: I wonder I wonder
I wonder

Some day I will tell you the story of the snuffling dogs
after my throat in the silence, in that particular cold but

I reached the door -- heavy, old, thick paint and it was shut, behind a drift.
There were no people.
There were no cars. I think I mentioned that, but it can get confusing and
by this time, nothing worked -- fingers, face, mouth, hands -- nothing: legs, brain.
I couldn't work the handle. Someone opened the door, shoved against the snow.
I went inside. I couldn't speak, of course,
words, and the idiot sounds of the first-warmed are a
cringing embarassment, so
I sat in silence, dripping, waiting, then I unzipped.

I used to hate that paralysis, that waiting. So I developed a method
of grasping -- to buy time, you understand, to disappear -- of grasping
the zipper with two rigid thumbs, like thalidomide flippers, shaking off
my coat where I stood, an epileptic, brief Christ-boy, grasping the coat
wrist-to-wrist, wide-eyed,
red-faced, grunting in
tongues. It seemed important, at the time,
an extra minute or two not standing, not dripping, not helpless.

A few more people arrived. That's all. There were five or six or seven of us.
That's all.

After a while, Lenny walked out to perform and he perched on a stool
a few feet from me. And he played. One man, an acoustic guitar. That's all.
Sometimes he hummed or mumbled something. Maybe they were the words
to songs. Probably not.

Lenny played for a bit and then he stopped. He walked off stage, went out back.
I bought a mug of tea, nursed it. After a while, Lenny came back,
sat down, played some more. Not too long. Then it was time for a break again.

None of us spoke. The five or six or seven of us, I mean, to each other. We
sat, apart, kept to ourselves. Maybe it was the dark, the snow, the times.
Maybe it was just me.
There were sounds - wooden chairs on the floor, the raising and lowering of
cups. I'm pretty sure one guy had a tape recorder hidden in his coat. I could
hear the double clicks every time Lenny came and went, came and went.
Came and went. Every time, a little farther away, returning with fewer words, like
he was walking home in the snow.

At some point, Lenny just didn't come back. His guitar was
propped against the stool. The guy behind the bar
came out, said that was it, collected glasses, showed us the door.
The five or six or seven of us.

Over the years, I thought a lot about the guy with the tape recorder.

I walked home.

JDP 2008/08

Copyright John D Porter © 2008

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